Politics

Jan. 6 committee chair expects panel to issue criminal referrals to DOJ

Summer Concepcion and Ryan Nobles
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U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) (R), Chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, presides over a hearing on the January 6th investigation in the Cannon House Office Building on October 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.
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The chairman of the House Jan. 6 committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., expects the panel to make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, he told reporters Tuesday.

"We have made decisions on criminal referrals," Thompson said.

Thompson said the panel has yet to formalize its decision. He also declined to say which individuals would be subject to the referrals or how many he expects the panel to make.

Thompson later told reporters that he thinks there is "general agreement" on the panel that referrals will be issued.

"But we're not there yet," he said. "I wish I could tell you one, two, three, four but that's all still being discussed."

In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for the committee said it "has determined that referrals to outside entities should be considered as a final part of its work," and that it will make "decisions about specifics in the days ahead."

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Committee members previously signaled the possibility of sending multiple criminal referrals to the Justice Department involving former President Donald Trump and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results based on evidence they've uncovered investigating the events surrounding the attack on the Capitol.

Last July, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice chair and one of two Republicans on the panel, told ABC News that the committee would make a decision about whether to alert the Justice Department to possible crimes it has uncovered.

"The Justice Department doesn't have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral, and there could be more than one criminal referral," she said on ABC's "This Week" in July.

Cheney pointed to one of the committee's public hearings in June that featured explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, former top aide to Trump's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. In her testimony, Hutchinson detailed outbursts of rage from Trump as he urged his supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6, which included demanding his aides get rid of magnetometers near the White House before he addressed a "Stop the Steal" rally on the Ellipse.

"It's very chilling, and I think we will, you know, continue to present to the American people what we found," Cheney said at the time, referring to details Hutchinson shared in her testimony.

The panel has been conflicted over whether to refer its findings to the Justice Department. Thompson told reporters in June that "we do not have authority" when asked whether the panel ruled out potential criminal charges for the former president.

The panel voted unanimously to subpoena Trump during its ninth public hearing, its last before the November midterm election. It subpoenaed Trump for any communications he may have had regarding extremist groups involved in the Capitol attack and any attempts in the past year to contact witnesses testifying before the committee.

The former president sued the committee last month in an effort to block the subpoena, arguing that the panel lacked the constitutional authority to issue it. Trump's lawyers also argued that the subpoena's purpose is "partisan, not legislative — to punish President Trump, and to score political points."

Trump's lawsuit came days before he announced his 2024 presidential bid.